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JALC Made a Lasting Impact on Board Vice Chair Mandy Little

Published on April 17, 2020

When I was growing up the plans seemed simple, finish high school, go to college and earn a degree, find a job, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after.  So, that’s what my plan was, but it didn’t quite work out like I would have thought.  I had completed the first two steps when I learned a valuable life lesson, sometimes our plans are not God’s plans.  One would think that since I completed two years at Rend Lake College (RLC) but wasn’t able to graduate with a degree that the time there was a failure, but I don’t see it that way, because I met my husband at RLC.    I chose to walk away from RLC because at the age of 20, I wasn’t sure I knew what I wanted to do.  I had earned my EMT licensure while I was there, and I had a job opportunity and I chose that. 

For the next five years, I bounced around jobs trying to find something that gave me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I worked mostly in healthcare because I had an EMT license and that was a natural fit.  I remember the day I decided to go back to school.  I had this thought that there had to be something more.  This couldn’t be all that God had intended my life to be.  I had been married for not quite a year and I knew I wanted to have kids someday.  I also knew that I wanted to be someone who provided an example for them.  Someone they could be proud of. 

My life-changing journey began when I made the decision to attend John A. Logan College in the Fall of 2009, at the age of 25.  This would make me older than many students, I thought, so I was preparing myself for the experience to be uncomfortable, almost like I would need to explain why I was 25 and in college, similar to Adam Sandler in Billy Madison.  I quickly learned that Logan provided a welcoming environment and I was not the lone non-traditional student, a term I would learn and be proud of. 

I am not a person who can just do the bare minimum so when I heard about Student Senate I had to see what it was about.  There, I met the advisor Adrienne Barkley-Giffin.  Under her guidance and encouragement, I not only thrived but also encountered one of the people who would change my life.  The second person who changed my life came when I enrolled in a general education class I was not looking forward to, American Government.  Dr. Jane Bryant forced me to truly evaluate my political beliefs, she pushed me to better understand the system, and without knowing it, she helped me discover one of the greatest passions in my life.  Adrienne eventually encouraged me to run for something called the Student Trustee.  I didn’t know anything about the position other than the purpose seemed to be the conduit between the students and the Board of Trustees.  I later learned that the position was that and so much more.  Due to Adrienne’s encouragement, I ran, won two back-to-back terms, and began a life-changing experience.

During my two years on the Board of Trustees, I was able to participate in monthly meetings, participate in Executive sessions, fight for the students when it came to tuition increases, lobby for our students in Springfield and D.C., and fight against changes to the Academic Calendar that broke up the student break surrounding Thanksgiving.  I was also afforded the opportunity to participate in the Illinois Community College Board-Student Advisory Committee, where I planned the statewide Student Lobby Day one year and I chaired the entire committee the second year.  While I was on the Board of Trustees, I made some lifetime friends with Jake Rendleman and John Sanders, two of the board members.  They truly made my board experience one for the books.  They encouraged me, challenged my thinking, and led to me changing my degree plans from Elementary Education to Political Science.  I graduated JALC in Spring of 2012 with memories to last a life time.  I continued my education at SIU-Carbondale, and as a direct result of the caliber of education at JALC, I was able to graduate SIUC by Fall of 2013, just three semesters later.

Fast forward a few years, in 2014, I was contacted by another board member Mike Hopkins, with a question that would lead to another incredible opportunity at JALC.  Mike decided not to run for re-election and was wondering if I’d be interested.  After discussion with my husband, and consideration that we had our first child due in January of 2015, I decided to run.  Unfortunately, I lost, but I know that all things happen in God’s timing.  I needed to learn how to be a mom and that exactly what I did for two years.  In 2016, just a short time after we had our second child, I decided to run again, this time winning one of two open seats!  I am now starting my fourth year of a six-year term.  I am now serving as the Vice-Chair of the board, the Chair of the Board Policy Committee, the Secretary to the Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA), and the Co-Chair of the ICCTA Awards Committee.  Through being on the board, I have been able to show my girls the value of being a public servant, and how important it is to give back to your community, especially an institution who changed your life.